Utah and Tennessee have a combined population of 10 million — roughly 3 percent of the U.S. — and 127,000 square miles between the two. Yet these states are suddenly looming very large in supporting and defending the Second Amendment.
Sometimes called “permitless” or “unrestricted” carry, constitutional carry refers to the legal carrying of a firearm — openly or concealed — without a license.
Now that Utah and Tennessee have adopted permitless carry, the number of U.S. states in which residents can carry a gun without a permit stands at 20. Each state’s legislation is slightly different, but carrying across a state line still requires a license and state-to-state reciprocity. It would be unwise to carry into a neighboring state without first looking into that state’s gun laws.
Constitutional Carry In Tennessee
Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed Senate Bill 765/House Bill 786 into law, effective July 1, 2021. This legislation recognizes Tennessee citizens’ right to carry a firearm openly or concealed. Now an of-age citizen without a criminal record or addiction to a controlled substance may carry without experiencing government red tape or the imposition of a financial burden. (Fees imposed inevitably result in the development of a bureaucratically controlled database. The included data, names and addresses then become available under most Freedom of Information act requests.)
The legislation was sponsored by Republican Rep. William Lamberth and Republican Sen. Mike Bell. It does not affect previously issued carry permits or change prohibited places where a firearm cannot be carried or the legal explanations determining when force may be used for defense.
“Constitutional carry ensures a barrier-free commitment to Second Amendment rights and is core to a strong public safety agenda,” said Gov. Lee. “Tennessee finally joins 19 other states in siding with law-abiding, responsible gun owners[…].”
Constitutional Carry In Utah
In February, Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed House Bill 60 into law. The bill authorizes constitutional carry in the state. With Rep. Walt Brooks and Sen. David Hinkins, both members of the Republican Party, as primary sponsors, HB 60 gathered more than three dozen sponsors and co-sponsors.
HB 60 maintained the existing Concealed Firearm Permit (CFP) system, so citizens who still wish to obtain a permit may do so. Utah honors concealed carry permits issued by any other state or county. However, some states will only accept the Utah Concealed Firearm Permit if the permit holder is a Utah resident.
More Good News Bills
Currently, 20 states allow law-abiding individuals to carry a concealed weapon without a government permit. Those are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Many state legislators are now introducing bills for unregulated carry. Florida, which leads the nation in so many firearms-related areas, has been slow to follow the constitutional mandate. But House Bill 123, filed by Republican Reps. Anthony Sabatini and Tyler Sirois in late December 2020, has been given a first reading by the state Senate. While it does not authorize statewide constitutional carry, it does remove the requirement for a permit to carry concealed. It is a step in the right direction.